Does God Believe in War?

Scripture: Joshua 1:2, Romans 13:3-7, 1 Peter 2:13
Date: 04/05/2003 
Does God believe in war? What does the Bible say about war? The Bible predicts there will be wars and rumors of wars before Christ comes. Most wars can be broken into categories: wars of conquest, wars of self-defense, wars to punish, and wars of deliverance. We should seek to cooperate and obey government laws in so far as possible.
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Coming to you from the capital city of California, Amazing Facts presents, "the everlasting gospel." We're gathered with God's family of faith at the Sacramento central church. Together, we will explore the Bible with teacher, author, evangelist, Pastor Doug Batchelor. In the atmosphere of heart-felt prayer to our Savior and lord, moved by songs of love and praise for God and his amazing grace and inspired by the dedication and personal witness of our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ, we will study the timeless everlasting truths of God's Word. From messages which inspire us with the hope and freedom we have in Christ to practical down-to-earth sermons which give us the tools to live Godly lives in a secular society as well as messages that give Bible answers to our spiritual questions and look at what God says about the future. There is sure to be something for everyone.

So we invite you to join our family and experience the transforming power of God's Spirit in your life. Our sermon today sort of has a title that is designed to stir you a little bit: "does God believe in war?" It's almost like asking, does he believe in sin? You're not sure how to answer that. And I should probably make a little disclaimer at the beginning, this message may be, for some, controversial. I don't mean to be political today; I mean to be biblical. I have watched, as I'm sure you have, varying responses and listened to a lot of dialogue coming from all different quarters of how people are responding, Christians and pagans, politicians, preachers and laity alike to what's happening today and it has sort of driven me to study and find out what the Word of God has to say on this subject.

I think it's important for us to know what the Bible teaches about something of this nature. Now I also have some selfish reasons. As, you know, Karen and I have five children that are alive right now. Oldest daughter, cheree is in the army in fort campbell. One day before she was going to be get shipped out--she has two children ages 4 months and 2 years old--and she was really praying she wasn't going to get sent out, maybe not see her children for a year.

You can understand that. And praise the Lord, they've postponed shipping her. But Daniel is in iraq right now in the marines, and I don't want to grandstand. I know many of you have loved ones and family that are there also but if you'd keep him in your prayers. He's in third battalion company b.

I think even fox news has a reporter embedded with them and so we have been following this. And I found it stirring up a lot of thoughts and emotions about how to respond, as a Christian, think and process a war. How do you process a war as a Christian? And so I am also--i am not standing before you as an official representative giving you an official position of the church. This is a very volatile and sensitive subject. But I want to take you through the Bible from at least my perspective of what God says.

For one thing, war is something that we have to consider because it seems like it's always going on. Somebody in Canada, some papers, did a study there and they said that they estimate that from ,600 b.c., The world has known only 292 years of peace. During this period there were ,531 wars, large and small, in which 3--is that trillion? Million-- billion 640 million people have been killed. The value of the destruction would pay for a golden belt around the world 97 miles wide and 33 feet thick if you were to pay for those wars. A canadian paper estimated that in the last 200 years, we've had years of war for every year of peace.

You can understand why Jesus said that there would be wars and rumors of wars but the end is not yet. It's almost as though the Lord was saying, "do not say, because you see war, this is the end of the world 'cause there are going to be wars and rumors of wars," from his day to the present. And that is certainly a prophecy that has come true, amen? There have been wars and rumors of wars. But we need to consider, since war is something that we do deal with, what are the reasons that one nation goes to war against another? Well, there are many varying reasons and I'll cite some of them. Makes me think about a story when a boy was sitting on the couch with his father and he said, "dad, why is there war?" And The Father thought for a minute and the mother was fixing dinner and The Father said, "well, world war i, for instance, started when the germans invaded belgium.

" And his wife corrected and she said, "no, that wasn't it. Tell him the truth. It was because there was a murder." And The Father said, "well, he's not asking you, he's asking me." And she stormed out of the dining room, slammed the kitchen door and the shelves rattled and there was a silence. And the boy said, "you don't need to say anymore, dad. I understand.

" War typically is because of the emotions in the human heart because of pride and because of sin and selfishness that's usually at the core. You'd be surprised; do you know that there was a war fought in which thousands of people died over somebody not putting back a bucket for watering horses? One nation went to war with another nation. And there have been wars fought over smaller things than that. Verbal insults, people get into wars. But typically wars can be broken down into about four general categories.

And I will show you some Bible examples where nations went to war. First of all, people go to war for conquest, to take new territory. When Joshua was sent by the Lord into the promised land, let's face it, that was a war of conquest. He said, "go take the land for yourself." Joshua 1:2, "Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore rise, go over the Jordan you and this people to the land that I'm giving them.

" They invaded. There are seven canaanite nations that were there and they were to conquer and conquest the land for themselves. We don't ever want to admit it but the fact is that when the settlers came largely from europe to this continent, there were a people here. We came and we tried to do it as peacefully as we could at times, but if we could not do it peacefully, we did it by war. It was a conquest and that's why we took the land from the native inhabitants, but you don't ever hear it discussed that way.

A lot of wars that are fought, it never sounds very good. "Why are you fighting this war?" "So I can take your land." That doesn't ever sound very good, does it? But let's face it, that's one of the reasons that people fight wars. Self-defense is another reason for war. You have no alternative. King asa, for instance, was attacked by an Ethiopian army led my king zerah, this is in Chronicles 14:9, "an army of a million men came against Israel.

" And the Bible says that he had to go out and fight them. He had 300 chariots. And so for self-defense, sometimes wars have been fought because an invading army is trying to conquer or conquest the native land. Sometimes wars are fought for the sake of punishment. I can think of a few cases of this in the Bible.

For one, the Bible says that David sent two ambassadors to hanan of the ammonites to comfort him because his father died. Well, he thought that they were spies and so he humiliated them and the Bible says, "hanan took David's servants, shaved half their beards off," which was mortifying for a jew, "and out off their garments at the buttocks and sent them away," half naked with half their beards just to mortify them. And you think, "well, why go to war for something like that?" But David did. I mean, here he sends a compliment. He shows his concern and the people are insulted and so it was somewhat of an act of retaliation, punishment for what they had done.

Is that a good reason to go to war? Well, you have to evaluate that very carefully. But you know whenever Israel is affected with a suicide bomb, you'll almost always see some act of retaliation within a day or two. You know why they do that? They feel they have to do that because otherwise they'll just be hit broadside if they don't retaliate. I'm not justifying it. I'm just telling you that's why they do it.

Another reason for war is deliverance, to liberate or to deliver people who might be oppressed or captive. Abraham's nephew, lot, was taken captive by these five Kings from the north led by chedorlaomer and his confederacy. They carried off lot and the Bible says that Abraham armed--it says in-- this is Genesis 14:14: "when Abraham heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his 318 train servants and he went and attacked them by night and he liberated--" they not only took the booty of the war, he liberated lot. There are other cases when king Saul was first coronated. You can read in the Bible where the ammonites, the King of the ammonites attacked jabesh-gilead, surrounded the city.

And they said, "you can surrender to us or we'll kill you." And they said, "what are the terms of surrender?" They said, "we want you to all pluck out your right eye. If you all pluck out your right eye, we'll let you live." They said, "give us a few hours to think about this." And they sent a message to Saul and said, "this is what they're telling us. Can you please deliver us?" And so Saul came and fought against them and it was an act of liberation. And so these are some of the reasons, biblically, you see different nations going to war. It's not all of the reasons, but primarily they can fall under this.

When David killed Goliath, you realize, that was all in the context of a war. The philistines were attacking the Israelites to subjugate them so that they could tax them and it was basically a conquest there. Now, I want you to think about something. I don't know what your political views are but I want to know if we can just ask one question where we'll probably get the most, unity on an answer. Do you think it's necessary for the United States to have an army? Let me see by show of hands.

Get an audience shot of this because I want it for posterity. How many of you believe it's important for the United States to have an army, a military-defense mechanism? That's almost 100%. I won't put you on the spot and ask if you don't believe that. What happens if a nation does not have an army? Have you read in the Bible that when the children of Israel were beginning to divide up the promised land, there was this one group of people that lived up by laish. And some men from the tribe of dan were spying out the best area to occupy and it says in Judges 18:7, "then five men departed and came to laish and there they saw the people that were there and how they dwelt careless after the manner of the zidonians, quiet and secure.

There was no magistrate in the land that might put them to shame." That means there was no police, no military and anything. And they were far from the zidonians. They were nowhere near anyone that could protect them. They dwelt without any security, no police, no magistrate, no army. And you know what happened? They were destroyed.

The children of dan said, "hey, they're a pushover. Let's live there. It's a nice land." What would happen to America if we had no military? You need to have--especially because of the evil in human hearts--some form of protection. Now as Christians, there's a lot in the Bible about how we are to respond to government authority. And I'm not saying that we enjoy it.

The Bible doesn't say you should enjoy it. The Bible tells about there is a line which we go to and we should follow about to what degree we submit to government authority. Let me read some Scriptures to you and you might take notes on this 'cause some of you are gonna feel the hackles on your neck go up. Romans 13:3-7, Paul says, "for rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good and you'll have praise of the same.

For he is God's minister to you for good." Generally speaking, governments, whether it's a military government or a democracy, a monarchy, they might have policemen or soldiers. They are there to enforce the laws--social laws of peace. And here Paul says that we should respect those laws. Now in everything I'm about to read about government authority, listen, hear this, I am not suggesting that a Christian is ever obligated to obey a government law that violates a Christian principle. But I don't want you to say, "it was the Spirit that led me to drive 90 miles an hour.

" I mean, there are certain government laws; you may not want to go 55 or 65, but if you're Christian and you get pulled over, you can't say, "well, I don't obey the laws of the land." You're gonna get a ticket and God wants you to pay it, right? There's a lot of laws out there that makes sense. Some of them don't make any sense. You may not like them, you may not like the taxes, but if you're gonna live in the land and benefit from the things that those taxes cover, even though there's corruption in government--amen? There is corruption in government, there always has been in this sinful world. We are still, as Christians, not to be known as being rebels against society. We are to be obeying the laws of the land.

Peter 2:13, "therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake." See, this is coming from God. "Whether to the King as supreme--" ooh, that's scary. "Or to governors as those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those that do good." In any culture where there's any degree of order, there are evildoers. There are good doers and evildoers are punished. Aren't you glad? Now I think we're coming out of a phase in our culture where it seems like, that we are punishing the victims.

I hope our society's getting over that now. But for a while, we were so concerned with the rights of the criminals that we forgot about the rights of the victims. I see things improving in that area. One more, in 1 Timothy 6:1, "as many servants as are under the yoke count their masters worthy of all honor." We're to honor those that are in authority. In our culture, we have elected certain people as our representatives.

We may not even like them but we should show them due respect. It didn't matter whether you were a democrat or a republican. When you are a soldier and bill clinton got off the helicopter, they would salute him. And those same soldiers that guard that same helicopter still salute george bush. It doesn't matter what the political party is, they are to respect the leadership.

They are to respect that authority. Are you still with me? Amen. Okay. You were waiting for me to get to the war part. In the Bible, God, as much as he hates war, knows that war was a fact.

And so as he liberated the children of Israel from Egypt where he fought for them there, he established a theocracy. Now there are different kinds of governments. You can have a monarchy; you're led by a king or a queen. You can have a republic. American is technically a republic where you have representatives that we elect.

You can have a democracy where a mass elects people. You can have a theocracy. You have a dictatorship where it's a despot, totalitarian government. That's what saddam hussein-- that's how you'd classify that, or adolf hitler, a dictator. So they're often military leaders.

Back in this time, there was a theocracy. Now some countries might think they have theocracies but there are no theocracies in the world today where God is giving the orders. You remember how the Lord expressed his displeasure when the people said, "give us a king so he can be like the other nations and lead us into war." They said, "we don't know about you leading us into battle, o lord." And God reluctantly gave them a king and they had a lot of trouble ever since then. But he gave them instructions for war. Numbers 1:3, "from 20 years old and above all who are able to go to war in Israel and you and aaron shall number them by their armies.

" From the age of 20 to about 50, that was as long as a priest would serve, 50 or 55. That was the age of the fighting men. And you'll notice that when the children of Israel came out of Egypt, you know who the ones were that died in the wilderness? The soldier age or higher, those or higher. Now I know we start drafting people 17, 18. Some have lied and gone into battle at 16, got people to forge their name 'cause they were hot to get off into war.

During the civil war, they had them 12, 13 years old that were going off to fight because the forces were so depleted. Where we were in africa some of these countries that are involved in rebellion, they hand rifles to kids that are 12 years old and 10 years old and send them off with this dream-like idealism to die. That's very sad. But God said 20. Now, I'm not asking you to campaign that our government changes that but he had instructions.

Turn--in Deuteronomy 20, he gives some more specific instructions on war. I'm setting the stage for something, I just want you to understand. Deuteronomy, the whole chapter deals with the laws of warfare. Does this mean God believes in war? Well, it means he believes it's something that needs to be addressed. It doesn't mean he likes it.

God is a God of peace, amen? But it is a fact of the fallen world. And he says, for instance, in verse 10, "when you go near a city to fight against it then proclaim an offer of peace to it." Now that tells you something right there. If there's conflict between you and another city, he's not talking about the nations that they dispossessed. He was talking about outside nations. If there was some conflict, see if you can find terms of peace.

This is a very important point. What is God's preference? Peace. See if you can work out, negotiate terms of peace. That is the first goal, but that's not always possible. "And it shall be if they accept your offer of peace and open to you, all the people who are found in it shall be placed under tribute to you and serve you.

" That means that you have the right to tax others? That's what the Bible says, of course, that was under a theocracy, right? "Now if the city will not make peace with you--" I'm in verse 12:20 of Deuteronomy-- "if they will not make peace with you but will make war against you, then you'll besiege it. And the Lord your God will deliver it into your hands and you will strike every male with the edge of the sword." Those that were of fighting age that were part of the army were to be struck. "But the women and little ones, the livestock and all that's in the city shall be spoiled. You'll plunder it for yourselves." That meant that they were to be spared and integrated into the culture. "And you'll eat your enemy's plunder which the Lord your God gives you.

Thus you shall do for all the cities that are very far from you which are not of these cities of these nations." You can jump down to verse 19. "And when you besiege a city for a long time while making war against it to take it, you shall not destroy its trees." You know, right now basically we're involved in a siege. It's gonna be a short one I believe and it will be little by little. But when you surround the capital, this is the way they conquered cities back then. They surrounded the capitals.

That's how Israel fell when they surrounded samaria. Judea fell when Nebuchadnezzar surrounded Jerusalem. It was typical--Babylon fell when the medo-persians surround Babylon. They go to the capital and that's where the head is, the seat of government and this is traditional warfare that goes way back in antiquity and you're witnessing it with modern weapons, but it's basically the same tactics that you're witnessing here. But God said, "don't destroy the land.

When you besiege it, you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an ax against them. If you can eat of them, do not cut them down." Don't destroy the resources, he's saying. "Only the trees that you know are not for food." They used to cut them down to use for lumber to build siege works. And so God has a great deal of instruction. I'm just giving you a few little snippets of some of the instructions that he gave to his people regarding warfare.

And it doesn't mean that God liked war. Does everybody understand this? God hates sin. But there is sin and he made a provision for it. God hated slavery but did God have laws about how to treat slaves? God hated polygamy, but he made laws that you should--how to treat the people that had multiple wives. It doesn't mean he endorsed it.

Can you see what I'm saying? All through the Bible God often had to deal with things because the hardness of our hearts, he made laws regarding divorce. Does that mean God likes divorce? The Bible says he hates divorce, but at one point he told Abraham to divorce hagar, didn't he? It was something that was necessary. He had too many wives. It was creating a conflict with the chosen seed. It don't mean he approves of it.

That's why it shows this kind of a trick title, "does God believe in war?" God hates war. God is a God of peace, but he gave instructions on it to deal with it. Now, this is where it starts to get into some of the popular misconceptions. If God is a God of love and if Jesus is the prince of peace and if one of the Ten Commandments says, "thou shalt not kill," I get this question all the time, then how can this God of love and peace and life order his people to kill? I think we must admit that when Joshua went into Jericho to take the promised land, they killed the people in Jericho. They killed the amalekites.

They virtually annihilated them. Well, they did annihilate them except the King ahimelech. They fought the edomites. They fought the moabites, the ammonites, and a number of other nations, the philistines. And they killed.

How could God say, "thou shalt not kill," and then command people to kill? Is he a hypocrite? Let me tell you where a lot of the misunderstanding comes from. God does not say in the Ten Commandments, "thou shalt not kill." We've quoted it that way so long that we're just sure that's what it says and your Bibles may read it that way but that's not an accurate translation. The way it's really translated is, "thou shalt not commit murder." Matter of fact, Exodus 20:13, if you read it in the new king James version it says, "you shalt not murder." Let me quote from Jesus in the new testament. You can read king James-- new king James almost any translation. This is what Jesus says quoting that commandment the words of Jesus.

He says in Matthew 19:18, "thou shalt do no murder, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not steal." Now what is the definition for murder? Is it the same definition for kill? No. They're different definitions. "Murder is the unlawful killing of another human being by one human being especially with premeditated malice." Let me illustrate. I'm driving on my way to church. My seat belt's on.

My air bag's intact. I'm obeying all the laws and some poor, young drunk man on his motorcycle careens through a red light directly in front of me, is struck and killed. Well, I'm involved in killing him. Am I a murderer? Will any court in the land treat me like a murderer? No. If I was somewhat culpable because if I'm on my cell phone and tying my shoe, then it could be manslaughter, but even then, they won't call it murder.

And so you see there's a difference. So the question is, is a soldier a murderer? Well, some of them have been. When a soldier is obeying the reasonable orders to defend the country or to attack a specific enemy, do we call them a murderer? I don't believe so. I don't believe that's accurate. I don't believe that's fair.

It can be very disenheartenning when you do that. There are some soldiers that have done things that were immoral. There were some soldiers who were commanded to fight in vietnam and to shoot women and children and they said they wouldn't do that. And you maybe remember the my lai incident, some of you that your memories go back a little further. Some soldiers said, "this is not war, this is genocide and I'm not a murderer," and they wouldn't participate.

You can still be a soldier and have a conscience. And so there's been a lot of confusion about that. Exodus 21:24-25, "eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe." Now that must conflict with Jesus', "turn the other cheek." If we're Christians, we're supposed to turn the other cheek and not do eye for an eye. Wrong, another common misunderstanding. When Jesus said, "do not resist evil but if someone smites you on the right side, offer him the left, turn the other cheek," he's talking about our interpersonal relationships.

That is not the law for a government. When God told Moses--and incidentally it's the same God. Some people think that God, in the old testament, somehow was transformed when he got to the new testament and he changed all his policies. It's the same God. Amen? It's Jesus in the old testament.

It was Jesus who said, "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." All things that were made were made by him and that includes the Scriptures. He is the word, amen? Not just the new testament. When he said, "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth," that is a civil law. A government has to operate under those policies. What do you do if you have a culture and the policeman says, "well, I realized that you just raped and robbed.

We're gonna turn the other cheek." You'd have chaos and anarchy and the criminals begin to rule. Governments have to give equal punishment for crime, isn't that right? But in our interpersonal relationships, we can choose to turn the other cheek. They were addressing two different issues there. What about soldiers? John the baptist, when the soldiers came to him and said, "what should we do?" Luke 3:14, "the soldiers likewise demanded of him saying, 'and what shall we do?' And he said to them, 'do violence to no man neither accuse any falsely and be content with your wages.'" Now that's confusing. If when John said to the soldiers, "do violence to no man," if what he meant was don't go to war, then how could he tell them, "be content with your wages?" What he's telling them is quit.

But he wasn't-- "do violence to no man," didn't mean don't go to battle. It meant do not abuse your power. Do police sometimes abuse their authority? But does that mean they're not supposed to pull over speeders or stop criminals? No. I want the police to use force when they interrupt a murder or a rape or a robbery, don't you? I want them to use their weapons. You don't want them to abuse it and use brutality or violence.

This is what is being spoken of by John the baptist. The roman soldiers used to abuse the occupied people, the jews. And they'd beat them up and mistreat them and he said, "do violence to no man." This is what he's talking about. "And be content with your wages." They grumbled about their wages and they handled people roughly and he said, "you should be good to people." And this is why, of course, Jesus also healed the centurion servant. One of the difficult passages--now we're dealing in the new testament with Jesus' view of war.

And this has often been quoted. If you have your Bibles, you can look this up or turn with me. What did Jesus mean when he said, "buy a sword?" Was that an endorsement for us to arm ourselves in the event of battle? "Should a Christian own a gun?," I get that question a lot. Let me read this to you and I'll come back to that. Luke 22:36.

Are you still with me? Is this interesting? Okay. "He said to them, 'but now he who has no bag, let him take it.'" He's talking about when he had sent them out previously and they basically weren't trusting the Lord. Now he's going to the cross. He says, "he who has no bag, let him take it likewise a knapsack. He who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.

For I say to you, that which is written must still be accomplished in me and he was numbered with the transgressors for the things concerning me have an end." Now after Jesus makes this statement, the disciples still didn't get it. They said, "look lord, here are two swords." They were gonna take on the roman army. "We have two swords." And he said to them, "it is enough." And people think, what? Jesus was endorsing the disciples having two swords so they could take on the roman army? That's not what he meant. How do I know that? 'Cause later when Peter pulls out one of those two swords and cuts off the ear of malchus, Jesus says to Peter, "put your sword back into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup my father has given me?" He goes on and he says, "put your sword in his place for those who take the sword will perish with the sword.

" I'm reading from Matthew and from John. "Those that take the sword will perish by the sword." If we live by violence, we will die violently. This is what the Lord is saying. We are not to defend our religion with force. Never did Jesus intend for Christians to take up arms to go out with tasers and say, "do you believe in Jesus?," And start to torture them until they do.

Shoot at them, stab them and say, "believe like me." You know, this is what the priests that went with the conquistadors did. They told montezuma and--oh, I can't remember the name of that other south America king. Atahualpa? They told him to convert to Christianity or they're gonna kill him. And they finally said, "okay, okay, I'll convert." And they said, "well, we change our mind. But since you've converted to Christianity, instead of burning you to death, we're gonna strangle you.

" I mean, does God want us to use violence to force people to believe? What did Jesus mean when he said, "it is enough?" Let me retranslate that for you. Sometimes when you go from one language to another, you lose something that can completely reverse the meaning. When Jesus said, "sell your garment and get a sword," and the disciples say, "look, we got two swords," first of all, did Jesus really want them to go around without garments and naked with swords or was it a figure? When Jesus said, "it is enough," that translates enough of this. He wasn't saying two swords were enough for the 12 apostles to take on the roman army. It translates "enough of this.

" In other words, "I've had enough. Don't you get it?" Remember when they're crossing the sea of Galilee and Jesus said, "beware of the leaven of the pharisees," and the disciples says, "didn't we bring enough bread?" And Jesus said, "don't you get it? I just multiplied five loaves and fed the multitude. I'm not talking about physical bread." So often they were missing the meaning. Here's another example where Jesus is slapping his forehead and he's saying, "enough of this. Don't you get it?" "Look we got two swords, lord".

"That's not what I'm talking about." What did Jesus mean by the sword? All right, remember when Christ said, "I have not come to send peace but a sword." He wasn't saying that he'd come to start wars and some people have interpreted it that way. He was saying that the word causes division. This is the Word of God. This is the sword, amen? Look at all the Scriptures that tell us that. Hebrews 4, "the Word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword.

" Ephesians 6, "and take the sword of truth which is the word of God." You've got in Revelation where Christ appears coming with a sword coming out of his mouth. And so when Jesus says, "sell his garment. Get rid of your filthy rags and take up the sword," that's what he's talking about. "Lay aside your garment." The Bible says to buy the gospel. "Sell your garment.

Ho, everyone that thirsts, come to the water. If you have no money, you buy the gospel and you take the sword of the Word of God." This is the analogy that Jesus was making there. You have to apply the symbols the way Christ applied them. And then look at the other Scriptures where he says, "put your sword away." He told Peter, "this is not the kind of battles we're supposed to fight." But having said that, is there ever a time for us to fight? As a nation now, I'm not talking about as a church. I don't believe that Christians should fight and use violence to bring about conversions.

But if Christians are part of a government and that government makes a decision--I'm not even saying you might politically agree with the decision. If you're a citizen and the leader of the government make a decision to go to war, you may have other views but you ought to support that decision as far as possible. It doesn't mean you agree. You see what I'm saying about the difference? Let me give you some Scriptures 'cause I didn't hear any "amens." Exodus--or you ought to go to another country. Exodus 13:17, "when the children of Israel came out of Egypt it came to pass when pharaoh had let the people go that God did not lead them by the way of the philistines.

Even though it was near, for God said, 'lest the people change their minds when they see war and they return to Egypt.'" God knew the Israelites were not ready for war. They had just come out of slavery. They were not trained. They were not prepared and war can be very discouraging. I want to pause and just interject a thought, something you already know.

War, historically, has proven to be the greatest catalyst to bring out the very worst in people and the very best in people. You think about the stories in the Bible and it's almost always in the context of war where you see the worst behavior and the greatest sacrifice and heroism. David and Goliath, it's in the context of war. Shadrach, meshach and abednego, they were a conquered people. It's in the context of war.

You can just go through many of the stories in the Bible and you can see that. Deuteronomy 20:8, before the people of Israel went to war--now this was in that earlier chapter on instructions, but I didn't want to read this to you right away. Moses says that the priest was to gather the soldiers when they had to go to war and he would make this announcement, "the officer will further speak to the people and say, 'what man is there who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go home and return to his house lest the heart of his brethren faint like his heart.'" If there's one thing that God consistently says in His Word is if you are in a situation where you need to go to war, he never even addresses whether you agree with the political reasons for the war. He says, "if you're involved in a war, if your king is chosen to go to war, then say to the people, tell the soldiers if there's one of you who is chicken, if you're gonna be a coward, if you're gonna whine and pine, go home because it's contagious and you will discourage the other troops." Number 13:30-32, you remember the reason the children of Israel wandered for 40 years. You know why they wandered? 'Cause God told them to go to war and the ten spies came back and said, "oh, we can never conquer this people.

They're fortified much more than we are. We can't defeat them." And caleb said, "yes we can 'cause we've God a secret weapon. God is with us." And they didn't want to go and they discouraged the people from going to war. You just interrupt me if I say something that isn't true right here. They discouraged the people.

They said, "the ammonites are so big and the children of anak are there and the walls are so high." And the people began to whine and they got discouraged. And God says, "because you don't believe in me and you're not going forward, you're gonna die in the wilderness." You know, if we could go back in time, go back to 1935 when adolf hitler was swelling into power. And if you knew history, would you have encouraged world leaders to do something to limit him sooner? Wouldn't it have been better before 6 million jews died, not to mention millions and millions of other people? Wouldn't that have been better? Is it pretty? Is it good? No, it's ugly. Would there have been loss of life? Yes, but not the millions that we saw. What was it? Fifty-two million died during world war ii, fifty-two million people.

That's one out of five people in North America. And so if the government makes a decision, painful as it is, bloody as it is, sometimes you have to see a bigger picture. War is an ugly thing. Why did God tell his people to go to war sometimes? He was thinking about when the dust settles--whenever God sent his people to war, it was with the big picture of, "I want the gospel to be uninhibited." I don't know if you've traced some of the wars that have been fought in the last few years. But, you know, if you look at it, many of the wars that have been fought from America's view, from North America's view, at the end of those wars there has been more opportunity to spread the gospel.

You ever look at that? The civil war was the bloodiest war we ever fought. Is there anyone here that wishes that we left things the way they were before where we still had slavery?" Was it is a bloody war? It was extremely bloody. Does God believe in war? No. He doesn't like it. Is it necessary? Sometimes it is.

It's very painful but maybe necessary. But we've got to be careful we're not on the discouraging end. Let me give you another Scripture, Numbers 32:6. The children of Israel are getting ready to go over into the promised land and the tribe of gad, manasseh and--oh, there were three tribes. Half the tribe of manasseh, gad and what was the third one? Reuben, gad and half the tribe of manasseh.

Thank you. They said, "you know, the land of gilead is really nice. We've got lots of flocks." They had more than the average Israelite and they said, "this is a land of pasture that's rich. We don't really need to go over the Jordan. We'd like to have our inheritance right here.

It can't get any better than this for us." We can't imagine it." And Moses, his face fired up and he gave them quite a lecture and he said in Numbers 32:6-7 he said to the children of gad and reuben and half the tribe of manasseh, "shall your brethren go to war while you sit here? Why will you discourage the heart of the children of Israel from going over into the land that the Lord has given them?" And this is that famous passage where God said, "if you do this, be sure your sin will find you out." He said, "you need to join them. Even though you do not specifically get any benefit from crossing over the Jordan, they are your people. You are to join them otherwise you'll be discouraging them." Now are you getting the picture here? We may not get any personal benefit. We may not even agree but if we're part of a people, we need to be very careful about speaking against something because what can happen is we can discourage our own citizens, our own soldiers that are in the field. I'm ashamed, quite frankly, at the way that some people have behaved.

I think that in America where you've got freedom of speech, it's a great idea for us to voice our opinions, to process things. But once the leaders make a decision and you know that the die is cast, then be quiet and be supportive. That's the process. We have board meetings in our church. We've got lots of different opinions.

And that's it. We use a democratic process. We're not a theocracy. Trust me, we're not a monarchy either. And sometimes we'll have very animated free-feeling discussion.

And there might be differences. When we make a final vote, it could be close. It doesn't happen often but it does happen. But I would hope that once the decision is made that we will then all work together once the decision is made, amen? That's why we use the process that we won't continue to divide behind the scenes. That's like cancer.

Not only is it in a church family but it is as a nation. We've made a decision. United you stand, divided you fall. And the devil always tries to bring in division. We, hopefully, know about that tactic.

Is it possible, when a war breaks out, for a Christian to be a conscientious objector and still maintain his biblical integrity? I was would say yes. I think that every person must examine himself. I think we should support the government. I don't think you ought to run away and hide in some foreign land unless you plan on staying there. One of my heros is someone who's a member of our church by the name of desmond t.

Doss. He's still alive. I saw him a few weeks ago back in chattanooga at the collegedale church. I've read his book. It's called, "the unlikeliest hero.

" How many of you have read that book? He was a conscientious objector. He entered the armed services but he said, "I'm not gonna work on Sabbath unless I'm giving medical attention to somebody. I'm not gonna pick up a firearm because I want to help save life but I want to support my country." He had a really good attitude. He says, "I'm going to enter the service. I'm going to support my country, but i, personally, am not going to shoot another person.

" So he entered as a conscientious objector and he ended up--oh, they gave him such a hard time. They'd try to make him work on the Sabbath or keep k-p duty and he said, "no." He says, "I cannot do it. I cannot do it." Not only him, some of you have read terry Johnson's book, "for his honor," by kay rizzo. Another example became part of reagan's honor guard, would not work Sabbaths, but he wanted to serve his country. I think that's the right approach.

It gives you an opportunity to be a witness. When are God's people the greatest witnesses? When we run to Canada or when we stand up for him through trial? And he wants us to take a stand through trial. And if you have qualms of conscience about holding a firearm, that's up to you? I'm not gonna be your judge on that. You can find Bible precedent on both sides. But I think you should support your people.

Desmond t. Doss, he went into battle. He said on Sabbath, he said, "I'm gonna read my Bible," and he did. They started calling him preacher. He was deployed to the south pacific.

At one point in the heat of battle with guns firing all around him, he was sent up and single-handedly up on this cliff, this escarpment he went up and he lowered over 70 men down while under constant enemy fire and he did not get hit. He got the congressional medal of honor the only conscientious objector in combat to get that award. And look at the witness that he was able to serve by saying, "I'm going to serve. I'm going to go over seas. I'm going to risk.

I'm not going to be a chicken, but I'm going to stay a Christian." Boy if you can do that, you've got real courage. So I'm not suggesting that Christians violate their convictions and take up arms and take other life. Does everyone understand that? I'm talking about what does the Bible say about how we process some of these concepts as citizens of the United States, or whatever your country is, and primarily citizens of God's kingdom? These are some of the things we need to consider. Do not discourage the people. You know, ultimately, division is deadly.

You know how the midianites were finally destroyed? Gideon and his soldiers, they blew the trumpets. The midianites and the Malachites and the people of the east, they all turned their swords on each other. Every man turned his sword against his companion through the whole company. They self-destructed. Through division, armies are brought down.

Through unity, a small group can be victorious. When jehoshaphat went against a three-fold confederacy of edam, moab and amon, it says, "they asked God for deliverance and the Lord created division in the camp of edam, moab and amon. So they stood up against the inhabitants of each other." They utterly destroyed one another. That's in 2 Chronicles 20:23. Isaiah 19:2, "I'll set the Egyptians against the Egyptians.

Everyone will fight against his brother and everyone against his neighbors, city against city and kingdom against kingdom." Now, Jesus makes a statement. "If satan casts out satan, his kingdom is divided against himself and his kingdom cannot stand." Some people think that means that whenever there's a healing, it must mean it's from God because satan can't cast out satan. That's not what Jesus said. Jesus never said that satan will not, at times, appear to be casting out satan. He is going to appear to cast out satan.

But Jesus said when he does this, he's divided against himself and his kingdom's going to fall. Is the devil's kingdom going to fall? Yeah. Do you think that they always have unity in the ranks of demons. Well, I don't think so. If you could eavesdrop on some of those conversations, I think you'd be surprised.

There's harmony in heaven but I don't think the demons are in harmony. And you don't want to contribute to that. Finally, when the beast's power falls, you know what the Bible says? They're going to self-destruct by turning on each other. Revelation 17:16-17, "the ten horns on which the woman sits that committed fornication with her, they'll turn on the beast. These will hate the harlot.

They make her desolate and naked. They eat her flesh and burn her with fire." They're gonna self-destruct. This is what happens to the enemy. We don't want it to happen to us, amen? The devil tried to bring in division. Now, in conclusion, does God believe in war? It's still a trick question, you don't know how to answer it.

When he has to participate, he does. You know why there's a great controversy? Revelation chapter-- we are at war. There's a war going on between good and evil, right? I mean, everywhere you look, you see there's a war. So when you say, "does God believe in war?", It's really a silly question to ask 'cause we are constantly involved in battles every day. There are spiritual wars raging.

Revelation 12:7, "and war broke out in heaven." Way back at the very beginning, war in heaven. Does God believe in war? He doesn't like it but it's an ugly thing that he's had to deal with. Michael and his angels, now who is Michael? You want to know Jesus' view? Jesus has led armies into war. Jesus was the one who appeared to Joshua as the commander of the Lord's army and he told Joshua, "take off your shoes." He appeared as the commander of God's armies. "Michael and his angels fought with the dragon and the dragon and his angels fought.

" And ultimately you and I are involved in that war every day no matter what your political views might be, amen? Paul tells us, "put on the whole armor of God that you might be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." And then he itemizes what those different implements are there in Ephesians 6:13. It tells us to put on the gospel shoes and the breastplate of righteousness and the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit and the belt of truth. These implements, we're to have these spiritual weapons and protection in this battle. Peter 2:11, the apostle says "beloved I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims. Abstain from fleshly lust at war against the soul.

" You're in a war already. You've always been in a war. You may not have thought about it. And you know whatever the conflict is in the middle east right now, the results are gonna be temporary at best. The results of the war that you and I are involved in will be eternal, good or bad.

It is much more serious. The political haggling and the fighting in the middle east and other wars that may come after that, they're fruit, they're results. Those political alignments, they're temporary. But the war that you and I are involved in has eternal consequences. Please say, "amen.

" Timothy 1:18, the apostle says, "this charge I commit unto thee son Timothy according to the prophecies that went before on thee that you by them might war a good warfare." We're involved in war with the devil. Revelation 19:11 Jesus is pictured coming in the clouds riding on that white horse and it says in Revelation 19:11, "I saw heaven open and behold a white horse and he who sat on him is faithful and true." Who is that? "In righteousness, he Judges and makes war." He makes war in righteousness. Is there ever such thing as a righteous war? Was the war against slavery, a righteous war? I think so. Somebody asked lincoln one time, they said, "do you believe God is on your side?" And he said, "I'm really concerned if I'm on his side." We always want God to be on our side. It's like we're fighting our war.

First we need to make sure we're on his side. Revelation 19:19, "and I saw the beasts and the Kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against him who sat on the horse and against his army." This is primarily the battle of armageddon where the beast and his powers array themselves against the rider on the white horse, Christ and his armies. And everybody today hearing my voice, we're making decisions which army we're enlisting in. Now, you know, right now we've some countries that have said, "you know, we don't want to get involved in the battle there in the middle east." If we had all worked together, I think there would be less loss of life. It could have been more decisive.

But there is no switzerland in this battle between Christ and satan, is there? You can't protest. You can't say like France said, "we don't think this is justified. We're not gonna get involved in this spiritual war." You are involved. You're either with him or against him. And ultimately, we know which side's gonna win, don't we? The Bible's very clear about that.

I can't tell you exactly how things are gonna play out in the middle east. I have my opinions I'll share with you at other times but I'm optimistic. I think we should be. But I'm even more optimistic because I've read the final pages about how the battle between good and evil is going to end. The Bible tells us satan is gonna be defeated, that the serpent is going to be cast into the bottomless pit.

He's going to be destroyed. And ultimately, there's going to be a world where there is no more sin, no more sorrow, no more pain. You know, I like that Scripture and I'll close with this one in Isaiah 4. I'm sorry, Isaiah 2:4, here the prophet says, "they'll beat their swords into plow shares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation neither shall they learn war anymore.

" Won't that be nice, friends? Does got believe in war? Well, right now it's something--it's like saying, "does God believe in sin?" It's an ugly, ugly thing. It brings out the worst in people and sometimes it brings out the best. At the cross, you can see where the war brought out the worst in the devil. Isn't that right? You can see the worst of the devil at the cross that demon-inspired mob mocking The Son of God and it brought out the best in Jesus. I'm looking forward to the day where we don't have to study war no more, amen? But in the meantime, we're involved and we are Christian soldiers.

And the Bible has told us God wants us to stand, to take our stand and put on the armor of God. In closing, if you'd like to say, "lord, I want to stand with Jesus and stand up for Jesus and not discourage the troops," join me as we sing 618, "stand up, stand up for Jesus." You can't do that sitting down so please stand with me. [Music] stand up, stand up for Jesus, ye soldiers of the cross; lift high his royal banner, it must not suffer loss. From victory unto victory his army shall he lead, 'til every foe is vanquished and Christ is lord indeed. Stand up, stand up for Jesus, the trumpet call obey; forth to the mighty conflict in this his glorious day.

Ye that are his now serve him against unnumbered foes; let courage rise with danger and strength to strength oppose. Stand up, stand up for Jesus, the strife will not be long; this day the noise of battle the next the victor's song. To him that overcometh a crown of life shall be; he with the King of glory shall reign eternally. The people who are taking the polls say that they've noticed an increase in church attendance in recent weeks and they say part of that may be due to the conflict in the middle east right now, the war. It's interesting that a political war will drive people to church.

But when that war is over, will they fade away? The other war is going on all the time. I wonder, before we pray, just I'd like to ask, how many of you would like to join me in saying, "I want to pray for our world leaders, whether you voted for them or not? I want to pray for the soldiers that are in harm's way. I want to pray for the iraqi people. I don't want there any loss of life. I'm praying this comes to a quick resolution so as little suffering and death as possible can be the result.

And you know what else my prayer is? That when the dust settles, it will work to the furthering of the gospel. I told our Sabbath school class something I didn't tell you. I was called yesterday and reminded on middle eastern television that completely covers iraq, Amazing Facts broadcasts every week and they can see it in baghdad on satellite and it is written. And so I hope that you'll pray that when this dusts settles that more will find the truth as a result. Let's pray together.

Father in Heaven, Lord, I believe for many of us, this has been refreshing simply to address and process some of the things and emotions that we may be feeling as Christians and I pray that if I've said anything inappropriate, you'll forgive me. But help us to know how we can, as Christians, first of all, cast our vote on the side of Jesus, our commander. And then also, lord, as citizens of this temporary government and kingdom, help us know how to station ourselves so we can be witnesses for you and for that which is good. Bless us as we go from this place to walk in your presence and live in your sight. Be with our troops overseas in this whole situation.

In Christ's name we pray, amen.

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